arabic font & helvetica

docunagi's picture


As I am neither an arabic speaker nor reader I wonder what would be the most accurate typeface that will look like the latin family Helvetica.

Most of the arabic fonts I see have a calligraphic gesture… I wonder if the forms of the arab glyphs are drawn with the same rules than the one for the latin glyphs.

To summarize is an arabic font with calligraphic gesture more a serif font ? and is a linear arabic font more a sans serif font ?

and what about chinese glyphs ?

(My project has to include arab, chinese and latin languages, that is why I have all these questions :)

benknight's picture


Also this is sure to bring out some new
work/light in Arabic:

As for Chinese let me get back to you later about that.

Si_Daniels's picture

An obvious answer would be Arial Unicode, but maybe not a good one.

A simplified Arabic, such as the Arabic included in a font like Tahoma might be the closest in visual appearance to Helvetica, but this style is generally disliked for continuous text.

Perhaps you could explain a bit more about the project? Why the requirement to impose a Eurocentric style on Arabic and Chinese readers?

hrant's picture

Resist the urge to blindly impose formal attributes from one script to another,
especially when they're as different as Latin and Arabic. It's what we're taught,
and it feels "normal", but it doesn't work. For a full elaboration please see my
article in Spatium issue #4, or the hot-off-the-presses issue of Hyphen.

An Arabic font that looks like Helvetica has no chance of conveying the
same atmosphere as Helvetica; at least not to people outside the insular
world of graphic design, not to laymen, not to the user. Furthermore, it's
almost guaranteed to impede readability (even more than Helvetica :-).

For a good instance of this... disease, look at this: _
(A slide from my Beirut presentation of last April.)
Sadly, and tellingly, it took pride of place in an issue of
Eye. To their credit though, Eye did react in an open-
minded way to my -public- criticism back then.


docunagi's picture

Helvetica is the corporate font of the company… and the project has to be transposed for the chinese and arabs countries (and some others euro countries).

Hrant, that is what I was talking… When I talk about the arab "brother" of helvetica I think of the eye perception from a reader view and not from a designer view :).

Anyway thank you for all your answers… That is what I tought. A sans serif style is always view as a sans serif style whatever the language might be.

Si_Daniels's picture

I'm not an expert in Arabic or Chinese but there are other complications.

One issue to keep in mind is that different regions/countries have different preferences and sometimes different rendering rules. For example Persian readers prefer a different style from Saudi readers, who prefer a different style from Urdu readers, who have slightly different rendering rules to Uighur readers etc.,

Same is basically true for Chinese, where a particular character may take a different shape in simplified Chinese (CHS), traditional Chinese (CHT) and Japanese. An over simplification, but at the very least you should ask the customer if they need to support CHS, CHT or both.

cerulean's picture

I wonder if perhaps such faces give to the reader a faux-American feel analogous to what we see in novelty Latin faces like Takahashi, Mandarin and Simran.

hrant's picture

So I might suggest having a pair of fonts: one that more
closely (but not totally) matches Helvetica, for display
and logo usage; and another that's compatible with Helv
on the most abstract level, for text.

Kevin, I think Latinized fonts most certainly have
such an "accent"; except maybe to those who have
no exposure to the west - in which case I suspect
they just look like they're from another planet.


Jonathon's picture

I am living in an Arab country right now, and when an arabic font is used in relation to a corporate identity, the logo type tries to duplicate the feel of the latin in every way. Arabic letters are even stretched to match the length of the latin letters.

The university I work for has a sans serif logo, and the Arabic type has been custom drawn to match the latin type. It is the same for most companies like Nokia, Toyota and Subway even has the little arrows at the end of the characters.

My university uses a more traditional, calligraphic type for correspondence and printed collateral. When done this way, it makes it easier to adjust for the regional preferences that were mentioned by Simon in the longer texts, and allows for easy recognition of the logo. Because the logo will never be seen in just it's Arabic form, it is always seen with the english/latin type, at least in the UAE.

hrant's picture

Nadine Chahine has a great collection of ludicrously latinized logos.


Si_Daniels's picture

Adi Stern presented a similar set of Hebrew logos at ATypI. I'm sure there are typographers around the world with such collections - maybe enough to fill a Mark Batty coffee table book? ;-)

hrant's picture



docunagi's picture

Hi guys,

I read carrefully about your suggestions.
I also saw the work of I like his font "Insan".
I think what I am looking for is something like this but defenitely not something like that .

hrant's picture

I actually met with Ihsaan last year, when he approached
me after my talk at CCSF. I was pretty impressed with his
designs, especially since he is (was?) a beginner in type
design. I do remember advising him on a certain lack of
typographic refinement (mostly technical stuff) but it was
clear to me he already had the most important attributes
to do the right thing. And I wonder if he submitted to the
Linotype contest, and if he'll be going to that tantalizing
Dubai conference this year.

BTW, your other two links return "forbidden".


dan_reynolds's picture

I wonder…if he’ll be going to that tantalizing Dubai conference this year.

Will you be going?

hrant's picture

Very unlikely. :-(
Any details yet, like dates?


T Bones's picture


You could put your question to the forum users via the research area at:

nadine_chahine's picture

>Also this is sure to bring out some new
>work/light in Arabic:

I can't comment yet on the results of the competition except to say that we are very happy with all the work that was submitted to us and that the winning works are very interesting


andrewbeattie's picture

Thought it worth posting this link to various Arabic and Latin shop branding found in Dubai

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